Posted by: trailerpilot | 06:13::2009

Syntax > Diction

Television’s gone digital and phones no longer have buttons. Design in all forms is focused obsessively on jettisoning the no-longer-necessary. The new paradigm is lean and clean, and “reduce” is revealing itself to be a directive that preempts much of the need to reuse and recycle. Seemingly fueled by this trend, Synapse Arts Collective’s Stridulate visits reduction upon language and movement, two realms prone (albeit beautifully, at times) to extravagance and excess.

Rachel Damon and Dan Mohr in Stridulate. Photo by Tim Ballard.

Rachel Damon and Dan Mohr in Stridulate. Photo by Tim Ballard.

Born of a nearly year-long process, this hour-long work has definitely benefitted from a marination in its own juices. The quintet that performs it, which includes co-creators Rachel Damon and Dan Mohr, has spent enough time mapping the terrain of extralingual vocalization and gestural, formal movement to capitalize upon the richness of its internal logic. Seen in progress early in March, Stridulate had birthed some interesting and unique material; what’s notable about its premiere is how beautifully each of these environments have found their place in the work, complementing one another in an arc that feels full and complete.

Which isn’t to say that Synapse holds your hand as you experience their universe. Stridulate begins effectively sans pomp or announcement with a quartet that takes simple weight-bearing and makes it shape the sonic element — steady chords of the performers’ voices are interrupted as they fall forward and are caught by hands clasped over their mouths. These artists have taken great pains to not just have choreographic and vocal elements exist in tandem but develop scenes that set up the interaction between these realms as the very subject of the piece. I felt the composition gradually ratcheted up specificity on both ends, the sung sounds approaching recognizable language at the same time the movement approached dancerly completion. Key to the satisfaction of watching Stridulate is how keenly aware of this progression its performers are and how joyously they relish each stop along the line.

Jeff Harms, Erica Mott and Lily Emerson in Stridulate. Photo by Carl Wiedemann.

Jeff Harms, Erica Mott and Lily Emerson in Stridulate. Photo by Carl Wiedemann.

Damon spoke to me after the show about a triage of the raw material as it was generated between vocally-based, movement-based, and hybrid varieties. Her and Mohr’s awareness of the vast differences in character each of these categories have was, to me, what made the composition of Stridulate sing. There are many small surprises throughout the work; a longer section composed primarily as music will abruptly segue into a silent dance solo, while full-ensemble dances evolve into half-grunted, half-chanted conversation. Character also sits on the cusp of definition: Without any of the five (Damon and Mohr along with Lily Emerson, Jeff Harms and Erica Mott) “playing” a consistent construction, they all — Mott and Harms especially — slip into personages that seem knowable despite any employ of the spoken word. Late in Stridulate, Mott flies off into a tangent of frisky belligerence, gleefully interrupting the remaining foursome’s rituals of aural-visual symmetry. Tempering sections whose rules change fast and end open are interludes that function well as opportunities to drink in the odd environment, get comfortable and ruminate on the greater implications of a performance that shuns vocabulary at the same time it strives for specificity. Spun out into “statement,” which admittedly may or may not align with Synapse’s goals, Stridulate asks us to look beyond the booby-trap of words and detail and focus instead on intent and agenda. The world being where it is, perhaps following their example isn’t such a bad idea.

Synapse Arts Collective performs Stridulate tomorrow at 4:00 and 8:00pm and next weekend, June 19 at 8:00pm and June 20 at 4:00 and 8:00pm at The Galaxie; reserve tickets here. Note June 19 there will also be a special post-show reception to benefit a summer 2010 European tour of Stridulate.



  1. […] tonight at the Auditorium and is not to be missed. This weekend are another three performances of Synapse Arts Collective’s excellent Stridulate, and Saturday at Elastic is a one-night-only concert featuring Williwaw, Adrian M, and Ian Hatcher […]

  2. […] folks can, in the throes of winter on Lake Michigan, save one’s soul. Mirroring the crossing of disciplines in their company’s work, Synapse Arts Collective’s Rachel Damon and Dan Mohr have paired up with Links Hall to pair […]

  3. […] and on its resonant wooden floor. Synapse Arts Collective brought an excerpt from Stridulate, which I loved, that included two new performers (Charlie Univerz and Angela Watkins) in a roaming, migratory […]

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